3 Science-Backed Strategies for Athletic Excellence

Athletic Excellence

Science has figured out how to optimize just about everything, from getting faster package deliveries to finding the right partner. You open an app, thumb over a few buttons, and just the right thing arrives at your door. Being a top-tier athlete is a little different; you have to work a lot harder to get what you want. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t use science or innovation to get you where you’re going a little bit faster.

In this article, you’ll learn what the research shows about how to best improve your athletic performance. From monitoring your food intake to improving your focus and balance, you’ll see what science says about getting better. It’s not always — though sometimes it is — about tracking every move you make. Sometimes you just need to study the facts, and then put them into practice the low-tech way. Here’s where to start:

1. Track Your Macros

To achieve top athletic performance, you need to fuel your body with the right nutrients. You need enough protein to build muscle and recover efficiently and enough carbs to replenish glycogen stores and increase endurance. Fats can provide fuel for lower intensity exercises, and help your body absorb essential vitamins A, D, and E. A plethora of other vitamins and minerals can improve performance in various ways.

The right macro- and micronutrients for your performance depend on your sport, body composition, and other factors. For example, long-distance runners might need a lot of carbs, while Olympic lifters tend to need more protein. Plus, dietary patterns and nutrients also have different impacts on an individual level. What makes you feel ready to score that goal might make another person feel bloated or sluggish on the field.

To get the best sense of which foods work best for you, you might need to do some experimentation. And if you’re trying to lose fat, build muscle, or gain weight, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your diet. Regardless of your individual needs, you might benefit from a nutrition tracker that can help you log macros and nutrients. Choose the best macro tracking app for your needs and budget, and see exactly how food impacts your performance.

2. Study Your Movements

A nutrition app is just one way you can use data to achieve or maintain athletic excellence. There are also all kinds of apps for tracking every conceivable component of your body’s performance. From workout trackers to smartwatches that track your heart rate and blood oxygen levels, you can learn a whole lot about your inner workings. But if that’s not enough, there are even more innovative ways to improve your performance using data.

For example, if you’re a serious athlete, scientists can use biomechanical analysis to discover and improve on tiny flaws in your technique. Using tools like high speed video, biomechanists can examine the angles of your joints against optimal positions for elite performance. Scientists also attach small trackers with gyroscopes and accelerometers to athletes’ backs as they train on the field. These tools can help them understand things like how fast they are and how hard they stop.

Another way of measuring athletic performance is a scientific tool called a force plate. These devices, also called force platforms, may be placed on the ground under an athlete’s feet. The plates can assess different performance factors like an athlete’s gait, balance, and more. They can also determine how much power a person uses when they jump and how hard they land. Force plates can also tell an athlete if they’re relying too much on one leg versus the other.

3. Try Mindfulness

One surprisingly effective tool for enhanced athletic excellence is the practice of meditation. Many athletes know this to be anecdotally true, and are known to spend time visualizing a match or meet before it happens. What you may not realize, though, is that some of these techniques have been scientifically demonstrated to improve performance. For instance, mindfulness-based practices have been shown to enhance elite soccer performance.

Mindfulness is a particular type of meditation that involves being more aware of the present moment. Practitioners aim to stay more in touch with what’s happening around them, as well as notice their thoughts and feelings. A key component of mindfulness practice is non-judgment, or staying neutral to these experiences. A plethora of apps exist that can teach you to use mindfulness effectively, some specifically designed for athletes.

Another benefit of mindfulness meditation is that it can have mental health benefits for athletes. This is crucial since athletes can be highly susceptible to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health-related issues. Mindfulness can improve and support overall well-being, helping prevent or manage issues like poor self-esteem or depressed mood. It can also keep you focused and attentive while coaching and training and during a competition.

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Don’t Push Too Hard

With these key tactics, modern science says you can perform at your very best, as an athlete. Still, it’s just as important to take care of those boring, old-fashioned needs like proper hydration and good sleep quality. At the end of the day, we can innovate the world around us, but only evolution can upgrade the human body. Remember: You’re not a bot; you’re a flesh and blood animal that needs appropriate rest, recovery, and self-care.

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